vanish - disappear

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Sonnia, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. Sonnia Member

    What's the didderence between the words vanish and disappear?
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    My purely subjective, purely personal opinion is that vanish is a bit more dramatic than disappear, but otherwise I don't see any significant difference.
  3. rmawhorter Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    English - Canada
    I agree with James. I would also figure that disappearing could be a little slower a process than vanishing. The cookies disappear but ghosts vanish. You could say that the cookies vanished but that would be a little dramatic. It would be implying that they were eating very quickly.
  4. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Yes, I think that speed and suddenness are what distinguish vanish from disappear. Something can disappear slowly, but I don't think it's possible to vanish slowly.
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I wondered about this. I don't think it's a logical impossibility. There are quite a few cases in literature where this is said to happen. Here are two:

    The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain by Charles Dickens: Ch. 3 ...
    And her shadow slowly vanished. They were face to face again, and looking on each other, as intently and awfully as at the time of the bestowal of the gift, ..
    Five Tales by John Galsworthy: A Stoic
    At his tortoise gait he passed between the office stools to the door, opened it feebly, and slowly vanished. Shutting the door behind him, a clerk said: ...
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Just because it's not a logic impossibility doesn't mean it is in modern usage, sounds good or is recommendable..... :)
    I'm with the Nun on this one:)

    How do you feel Thomas about those examples, as an English speaker they strike me as strange and unusual (it is oldish literature) do you feel the same? I'm not sure if you were pointing out that it's not impossible, or if you were supporting the fact that 'vanish' is also used for things that happen slowly...

    Because even seeing those examples I still wouldn't tell someone learning English about them, because I find them strange enough..
  7. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    When Nun-Translator said that it wasn't possible to vanish slowly, I took her to mean that there is a logical clash between the words, i.e. that it was logically impossible to do it, just as it's logically impossible to retreat forwards. I didn't think any other sort of possibility was in question.

    Now something which is logically impossible is meaningless, and that would mean that the the examples I gave, and the many other examples to be found in English of the expression, are meaningless. But I find I understand them very well.

    The WR dictionary gives five meanings for vanish, only two of which suggest rapid disappearance. This in itself suggests that there are ways in which you can vanish slowly - one such is without warning or explanation. Now things can happen slowly but without warning or explanation. We just get no prior indication that they are going to disappear.
  8. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Nun-Translator does not make unequivocal statements in this forum. (Except for that one.) She does not express her opinion as universal linguistic truths and she is always willing to hear other takes on linguistic questions.

    I said: "... I don't think it's possible to vanish slowly". The words "I don't think that" are to be interpreted literally: this is my opinion.

    Someone used to have as a signature something to the effect "Please take me literally. There is nothing between the lines but empty space." I may adopt it myself.
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think we might need to pay attention to each others words...

    Anyway, although we can all understand them very well (the quoted examples), the relevance I see in this conversation we are having is to help Sonia understand how we use them 99% of the time, and that is where vanish is usually instant, and disappear can be both slow and sudden, that's all I wanted to point out.

    Oxford English Dictionary:
    I would say that 1) is by far the most common usage, but we're not talking blanket statements here, just an insight into an English speakers mind on the differences between 'vanish' and 'disappear'..

    Tis all:p
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2009
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Forgive me. I wasn't trying to misrepresent you. I should have said 'When Nun-Translator said she thought it wasn't possible...' rather than 'When Nun-Translator said it wasn't possible...'. I agree that it's an important distinction, and it's why I lard my posts with in my view's.

    I was, of course, addressing a view rather than a fact. It's rather hard to disagree with a fact.

    P.S. I wonder if we may be falling into the old trap of thinking of a context and interpreting how the word is used in that context. What I mean is this: we are all probably familiar with losing something, a pen or an address book, say, something for which there can be no quick substitute round the house. Someone asks us where we think it is. 'I don't know', we say. 'It's just vanished'. Now what we are saying is that it has disappeared, and we say vanish because we want that extra drama which James noted back at post 2. We aren't implying anything about the speed at which it disappeared, but stressing, maybe that it has happened without warning or explanation, and almost certainly that its disappearance is mighty irritating.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2009

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